In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, we’re talking with Justin Christianson of Conversion Fanatics.

Justin is a longtime entrepreneur and after selling his previous business, he began consulting and eventually launched Conversion Fanatics, an agency that specializes in data-driven conversion optimization strategies.

They have been growing like crazy recently (150% last year), and today Justin pulls back the curtain to share the old school tactic that is driving that growth: direct mail.

This is the old school marketing tactic that can help you 2x your agency Click To Tweet

Even if you never plan on sending a single piece of direct mail, this episode is packed with advice that can help you better market your agency, because not only does Justin talk about how they’ve developed a sophisticated outbound sales system, but he talks about the mindset that is required to make any sales system work.

If you’ve struggled with sales and want to improve, or just want to hear other success stories, this is the episode for you.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Justin: Get it right here.

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Key Takeaways

Go where your prospects are [3:00 – 5:00]

Justin quickly found out that his target audience of executives in companies doing $20 million or more in revenue weren’t actively searching for his solution, and they weren’t living on social networks. They’re busy professionals that don’t have time for that, so Justin had to figure out a way to get in front of them.

Luckily, it is relatively easy for Justin to identify these prospects, so instead of trying to cast a wide net with the hopes of catching a few, he realized it made more sense to go directly after each prospect, one by one. A combination of direct mail and email was perfect for this.

Think “relationship building,” not “sales” [5:00 – 20:00]

If your goal with direct mail is to make a quick sale, you are in for a rough surprise. With each touch, you are getting and staying on your prospects radar, and it can take more than 10 touches before it makes sense to even start a sales conversation.

Timing is everything when you are dealing with big companies and large contracts. Maybe your prospect is coming up on a different budget, or they’re coming up on the busy season and then they see a dip in conversion rates. Whatever the eventual catalyst is, you have to already be on their radar in order to provide the solution. That might take six months for some of these larger companies.

Any form of direct outreach for high dollar services needs to be thought of not as a single sales channel, but instead as yet another tool to open the conversation. Your prospects need to know they can trust you and believe that you can solve the problem that they’re looking to solve, and you need to build that relationship in order to do it.

Fail forward [38:00 – 41:00]

I know a lot of other people are like me in that fear often holds us back. It’s being afraid to fail, it’s being afraid to be an amateur, it’s being afraid to ask for help, whatever it is, it prevents us from trying new strategies to grow our business. Justin felt that same fear, but he pushed through because he knew he had to do something if he wanted to make his agency work.

And the fact is, it doesn’t get any easier, especially when you know that there are going to be failures along the way. Justin sees failure with every single one of his campaigns on some level, but he views that as an opportunity to improve. They learn from their mistakes, then get back up and try again. After a while, they’re able to place some bigger bets because they’ve stacked those small improvements up and built a solid foundation.

Start small where failure is OK, learn from every failure, and try again. It’s not complicated, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Transcript:

Andy:Justin, thanks for coming on the show today.
Justin:Thanks for having me, Andy. It’s my pleasure.
Andy:I’m really excited to talk to you because I think a lot of what you’ve done with your agency is not as traditional .. Or maybe it is very traditional. It depends on who you ask. Why don’t we just start by having you tell listeners a little bit about yourself and your agency, Conversion Fanatics.
Justin:

[00:01:00]

I’ve been doing digital marketing for about 14 years now give or take. Somewhere in that ballpark. They all blend together. I had sold a company back in ’09 and I had always been doing split testing and different things, and I’d even published some information on it at my former company. When I got out of that company, then I kept getting asked all the time about the implementation, the optimization side of things. People were just not really sure what to do or how to go about it. Based on demand, I went into some private consulting. Then the demand kept growing, so I had partnered up with a longtime friend who was doing a lot of the same thing, but he had the systems, the processes and the people started. We just joined forces and Conversion Fanatics was born.
Andy:How long ago was that, would you say, where it officially became its own thing, its own agency?
Justin:2 1/2 years ago.
Andy:Since then, how have you grown? Because it’s one thing where a lot of agencies, if they can dog food their own services, that’s great, but for a conversation agency, you can’t really AB test and just get a bunch of clients without having a ton of traffic. How did you build the agency from those early days up to where you are now?
Justin:A lot of failure.
Andy:You’re honest.
Justin:
[00:02:00]
We tried, and still do try, a lot of things and just go forward and break stuff. We tried the webinar route, we tried the direct response route because both of us came from a direct response-style marketing background, so we tried that. We tried info lead-ins. We tried pretty much everything. Then we just happened to say, “What would happen if we ran a direct mail campaign or a direct outreach campaign?,” taking a page out of Sales Force, how they had their massive growth in the technology world. It worked. We started getting some interest, and eventually some clients, and then it just went from there and we just continually trying to improve every little step of the process along the way.
Andy:

[00:03:00]

I think there’s a couple things that I notice in your answer is that, one, you’re not afraid of failure. You almost embrace it. You know you need to keep improving things. You’re not going to hit a homerun on your first at bat. Beyond that, though, what made you decide to try direct mail? I’ve talked to a lot of agency owners. I’m sure some of them do it on some scale, but it’s nothing that everyone’s coming out of the gate, “Let’s do some direct mail?” What made you think maybe this could work?
Justin:We found out quickly that our target audience, the people that needed our help the most, weren’t actively searching for the solution. They’re not living on Facebook, they’re not necessarily browsing their Twitter feed, they’re not going to various websites. They’re busy executives. They’re busy professionals that don’t have time for that, they’re in the trenches. You need to get their attention so far. We just had to figure out a way to get in front of them because the other they come to us type method wasn’t working. We just had to go out just on a whim and just said, “Let’s try it. Let’s roll it out and see what happens,” and the results were positive.
Andy:What was that first campaign like, the first direct mail campaign?
[00:04:00]

Justin:

I think the first one was we sent a hand-written yellow letter, so a legal pad type page with just a note and some information just to … Then just this crazy follow up from there. Because you’re not going to get the response you would expect, especially in the direct response world. You set an ad, you expect the clicks to come, and you can adjust from there. With direct mail, you send something, chances are you’re not going to get any response from it. It’s important that you have a good, solid follow up plan in place to back it up.
Andy:Did you have that plan right away?
Justin:No.
Andy:The first one, have you done some research and known we need to do some follow ups, we need to do this? What did that look like at that point?
[00:05:00]

Justin:

We started out initially just doing cold outreach emails, and then we tried the direct mail route. We had some follow up in place, but not strategic enough or long enough to really get the impact. We did see some response from the follow up and some people raised their hands and expressed interest, so we knew we were onto something. We just needed to refine it and tweak it, and that’s just what we continually do.
Andy:That’s the mindset. What really is needed for almost any marketing or sales channel to begin with is that so many people think with Facebook ads or with whatever that they can just throw up a campaign, it’s going to start printing money, and then they’re going to grow like crazy and that’s all they need to do. They don’t realize how difficult it is. Then that’s what leads to all those blog posts that say Facebook ads are dead or cold calling is dead, all these things, because they think it’s too easy and easier than it is.
Justin:

[00:06:00]

It’s not easy. There’s absolutely nothing easy about it. It takes risk. I remember one campaign we sent out a small batch of 100, and inside, attached to the insert, was a $100 bill. At the time, we didn’t have an extra $1,000 bucks laying around. It failed miserably because we didn’t have the strategic follow up in place. This was early on. We were like, “This has got to get the attention of them,” and it did. We got some attention, but it never turned out to be any deals. It was a big gamble on our part. We just figured out what we did wrong or could’ve done better and went out and did it better the next time.
Andy:I’m curious, what does this campaign look like today? Do you have one campaign that you consistently run to generate interest? Or was it always something new?
Justin:
[00:07:00]
I think we have three or four running right now to different audiences and different things. For the most part, we have our go-to that we run the majority of our contacts through, through our research and all of that things. Actually on Monday we mapped out a new direct mail/phone/email campaign to test out here in the coming next couple weeks.
Andy:Who are your target market? I should’ve asked that in the beginning, actually.
Justin:Companies, generally, I guess they fall in probably the $10 million to $20 million in revenue range. We’ve worked all the way up into $300 million. We’re actually going to be testing it on some more blue chip-style companies, hitting more of the Fortune type lists to express interest. That’s what prompted this new campaign.
Andy:I’m curious, for this new campaign, what does it look like? What’s the first touch going to be?
Justin:A big box of stuff.
[00:08:00]

Andy:

Just a FedEx over to, I guess, your target buyer?
Justin:

[00:09:00]

Yep, directly to our target, who this happens to be the CMO. We’re being very strategic in finding out who that person’s assistant is so we can get in where we’re hitting them from both directions. The key to an outreach style campaign is it isn’t about me as a agency owner, it isn’t about my company, it’s about them. We really drive it home with results and proof of the results. That’s one thing we really emphasize throughout our entire campaign. We never just send a message or a touch point that says, “Just checking in,” or, “I hope I find you well,” or, “Look at this.” It’s all with a purpose. There’s always a reason for us to reach out to them. Maybe we have a new case study example that’s in their similar market, or something exciting is happening, or we’re going to a trade show or something. Some reason to reach out to them is what we follow.
Andy:Interesting. Because when you said that, I am immediately thinking of all the cold emails that I get in the follow up side just like, “Just checking in.” [crosstalk 00:09:23]. Why? This isn’t making me more likely to give this the time of day because you’re not providing me with any reason to.
Justin:Nobody needs more stuff to do, and they think it’s just more stuff that you’re helping to do. If you lead with value and information and make it about them, it becomes easier.
Andy:
[00:10:00]
When you say that, though, this sounds like it’s going to need a bit of personalization. While you have a general funnel that you’re going to work people through, you’re not just sending out the same letter, the same thing to thousands of people, are you?
Justin:No. It’s similar in a lot of ways, but the follow up afterwards is definitely personalized. Right before we got on this, we sent out a touch point to a prospect that got cold. It was something unique and different and it was a direct mail piece that had their logo on it and a picture from their website and things like that to personalize it and make that touch point a little different than just saying, “Just touching base,” or, “We haven’t chatted in a while. When’s good for you?”
Andy:When you talk about providing value upfront and making it all about them and how you can help them in results and all of that, other than case studies, what types of value can you provide in a direct mail campaign?
Justin:We show them where we feel they need some improvements.
[00:11:00]

Andy:

It can be almost like personalized tear downs. Not a full audit, but…
Justin:It could. Just think about it this way: it’s whatever gets them to raise their hand and say yes to something. You don’t ask for long, crazy questions, you don’t ask for all of that stuff. You ask for the simple yes or no, and that’s as easy as it gets, because they don’t have time and the lower barrier to entry that you can give them to respond or interact or engage, the better off you’re going to be.
Andy:What would an example of one of those yes or no questions be that you’re trying to get the answer to?
Justin:“I found some information on your site. Do you want me to send it over? Yes or no.”
Andy:I’m guessing you’re not sending them a letter that says that and then asking them to write back. Would that be an email?
[00:12:00]

Justin:

Yeah, that would be more in an email. A direct response thing, you’re not expecting a response, you’re just getting on the radar. That’s the whole point. Like you said, it’s 10 to 12 touches typically to get the ball really rolling in a sales scenario. We found that it’s simple. It could be as simple as mailing a copy of my book, but it isn’t immediate. We’ve seen it many times, the prospect goes cold so I mail him a copy of a book and two months later they go, “Read your book. Let’s talk.”
Lead with that value is probably the biggest thing. Opening that door and constantly being on their radar because timing is everything, specifically in our business. They might be coming up on a different budget, or they’re coming up on the busy season and then they see a dip in conversion rates. We have to be on their radar. It might take six months for some of these larger companies and some might be 30 days.
[00:13:00]

Andy:

Because I think the way you’re talking about this, it’s immediately apparent to me how this is different than the way most people are going to approach it or even think about direct mail. To me, it’s even changing how I thought of it because you don’t have a straight direct mail campaign. This is an outreach campaign that has direct mail as some of the touches. It has, I’m guessing, phone calls. It has email as well. Is that accurate?
Justin:Yeah.
Andy:How do you keep track of all of that?
Justin:We use software from Sales Loft. Their Cadence software.
Andy:Is it someone’s full-time job to be on top of this? Or is it everyone has a little piece in there? How does that actually look in your business?
Justin:

[00:14:00]

We have quote unquote account executives that handles … We have a team that researches and gathers the leads on exactly who we are. We use software solutions for that as well to help make sure we’re sending to the right people, or we’d be wasting a bunch of money. Then from there it just go over to the account executive. We scrub and clean and make sure we have everything lined up, and then we push send, essentially.
Andy:What percent of your new business generation comes from cold outreach?
Justin:90%.
Andy:This is what is really driving the agency far and away?
Justin:Yup.
Andy:Interesting.
Justin:We grew 150% last year. I think 78% of our revenue last year was from outreach.
Andy:

[00:15:00]

Where did the rest of it come from? Is it more word of mouth referrals, that sort of thing that’s going to happen anyways?
Justin:Yeah, inbound and referrals.
Andy:To be able to have that type of growth, to be able to have even 1/3rd of that growth, just to be able to get results from these outreach campaigns, how many prospects and maybe contacts … Do you guys have a set number of prospects you want to be reaching every week? Where do you set your goals in that sense?
Justin:250 a week is our new goal.
Andy:For all of those, they’re going to get the 10 to 12 touches or more? Or less, actually?
Justin:More. The new sequence that we mapped out was 180 days.
Andy:Roughly, how many touches do you expect to have over that time period?
Justin:40.
[00:16:00]

Andy:

If I’m [inaudible 00:16:02] thinking about this … I understand you said from the beginning this is not what you guys had built. It was a slow process of iteration, of learning, and of adjusting, but if I hear that as an agency, I’m going to say, “There’s no way I have the time and there’s no way I have the resources to be able to do that.” If you were to talk to an agency owner who wants to get started with this but can’t think about potentially mapping out something that complex, what would you say to them?
Justin:Got to start somewhere. That is the real thing. We started this company with $1,500.
Andy:

[00:17:00]

What would that first start be? I guess I don’t have a better way of phrasing it. What outreach would be, not necessarily as scalable, but if someone wants to put in more sweat equity rather than dollars, rather than complexity, what do those first tests looks like?
Justin:Start simple. You just got to really identify who it is that you can help, and be creative. How can you get in front of them within a tight budget? We started strictly on email without any direct mail, so there really wasn’t a huge cost involved in that.
Andy:

[00:18:00]

A lot of the process of this, too, is it shows your creativity, it shows the lengths you’re willing to go to reach customers. I think that alone can help you stand out, but you’re right in that there doesn’t necessarily need to be one set way to do it and you can show your creativity in that sense. It seems like, to me, an easy way of starting with it is looking at it really as … Instead of thinking, “Let’s do this direct mail thing,” it’s thinking about it more about how can I get in front of more potential buyers? How can I get these people who aren’t looking for the services to notice me? There’s a lot of other ways to do that rather than just sending [inaudible 00:18:16] mail, rather than sending whatever it is that the actual offers are. It’s thinking about that just relationship-building process.
Justin:That’s exactly what it is. You hit it right on. It’s the relationship-building process. It should be thought about in that way because people don’t buy from you on first touch. They need to know I can trust you and believe that you can solve the problem that they’re looking to solve, and you need to build that relationship in order to do it. It’s just whatever can get the attention and get that relationship started.
[00:19:00]

Andy:

Because that’s the thing is that, so many times, when you’re dealing with … Do you mind sharing what your minimum project size is?
Justin:50,000.
Andy:That’s the thing is, when you’re dealing with numbers that size or even just 10,000 and up, you’re not going to an immediate yes. You’re not going to get it after just the first conversation and you’re not even going to be talking about those prices really super early because there’s a long buying cycle to it. It’s not like a single conversation will close the deal. Many agency owners I think that start on the lower side of things who were a freelancer and also became the accidental agency owner where they started getting more work and grew, they raise their prices here or there, but they don’t get that relationship aspect of it. Honestly, it holds them back, not just from growing, but a lot of times from getting those larger deals.
[00:20:00]

Justin:

That’s the thing there too is … We used to charge a lot less. We could go back and probably drop our prices down or create a package around that and get a flood of new business, but we have found that, as we move up market, things are way less stressful. We have just pushed how can we go up market even further. Because it’s less stressful, you need less clients to be profitable. There’s less headaches around. You need less bodies to fulfill it. Those that beat you up over price really hard aren’t the ones you want to work with anyway.
Andy:

[00:21:00]

[inaudible 00:21:09] when you have the freelancers that are just getting by on up work. They don’t understand the differences at all. Even when you get into people who have web design shops and they’re doing websites for maybe $2,500 to $5,000, you can make a living with that. The main difference between that and getting to a bigger price point, a lot of it is, one, how you sell, but, two, how you build the relationships to enable those sales.
Justin:It’s really in justifying the money. If it’s a 10X, you have to have a reason why your new design or your new something is going to be better for them and they can justify the price. There are 100 different landing page creation softwares out there and we’ve sold landing page redesigns that are been optimized for $15,000 to $20,000 for landing pages. It’s crazy. You just got to think of it as building that relationship. Now we’re in conversation for much larger tickets, but it’s justified.
[00:22:00]

Andy:

Do you think, because the work you do is so close to the bottom line … With AB testing, with conversion rate optimization, with all that, you’re really driving improvements to where you can point to pretty quickly this is how much more money this made you. Do you think that’s maybe easier for you to sell more in the value and increase your rates?
Justin:Yeah. It’s still…
Andy:That’s not it, though?
Justin:It is, but it’s a really actually … Part of the reason why I wrote the book was to educate people on the importance of it, because it’s still shocking the amount of companies that are out there that talk about we just need more eyeballs on our stuff. That’s what we’re talking about here, too. It’s just traffic. People are so worried about traffic instead of worrying about getting more out of that traffic. When then you show them how it can have an impact on their business … Or maybe they’re doing split testing but they don’t have an actual plan to do it.
[00:23:00]They’re just testing random things and they’re not seeing the results that they want from it, so then they immediately think it doesn’t work. It’s really education and really building up that relationship, again coming back to the side of things, is just making that important and, again, leading with the value like, “Here’s what we’ve seen. Here’s some case studies. Here’s some examples. We do this every single day. Here’s what impact it can be,” and then prove it to them on their own use case scenario.
Andy:Not bigger picture necessarily, but it’ll be more generic, more theory about how this is why this is valuable, this is what it can do, here’s some case studies. Then you’ll really drill down the specifics by saying, “We looked at your website. This is specifically how this applies to you.” Is it something like that?
Justin:Yeah.
Andy:

[00:24:00]

Interesting. The book is called Conversion Fanatic. You wrote that. It was published about a year almost exactly, actually. When you published that, what was your main goal with the book?
Justin:Main goal of the book was to write a book. It was on my bucket list for quite a while and I just really didn’t have an outlet for it. Then the more I found myself trying to educate people on the importance of optimization was where I figured out that I needed to write the book. I wrote it from a standpoint that I didn’t want a bunch of theory, I wanted something really tangible, really actionable. It took me over a year to write it for that fact because I could’ve knocked it out in a month, probably, but I wanted everything to be real world examples and real world case studies and ideas and information that they can implement relatively quickly.
[00:25:00]I came at it from that standpoint when I published it, because we self-published it and I really didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, it became a number one best-seller. It’s been great proof for us as a business, as well asa myself as a quote unquote expert in the field. I don’t really consider myself an expert.
Andy:Now you can say, “I literally wrote the book on this.”
Justin:It actually says on our site we literally wrote the book on it. It was just good credibility, and that’s one additional outlet that gets the attention of our audience because many of them are readers. You put a book in front of them that says number one best-seller on it, it adds a little bit of credibility and a little bit more proof that we know what we’re talking about.
Andy:

[00:26:00]

It’s funny because I’ve talked with agency owners on both sides of things where … No matter how you do it, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself because there’s so many agencies out there offering so many different services that it’s easy to get lost in the sea. What I found is that, a lot of agency owners, what they’ll do is they’ll pick a really narrow niche and they’ll become the experts in, say, WordPress membership sides, or even narrower than that. You’ll see so many, and that works.
The other agencies who don’t necessarily go so narrow but are still able to differentiate themselves have developed this intellectual property, they’ve developed he credibility in ways of educating and building trust and building those relationships. It’s why you guys are able to charge $50,000+ when there are … I don’t even know how many CRO type of agencies out there there are, but it’s what’s helped you build that credibility and build that differentiating factor.
[00:27:00]

Justin:

That other side of it too is we’re just rolling up our sleeves and going to get it and we’re failing along the way. I didn’t know the first thing about running an agency when we started this. I’m a direct response market originally that happened to know and be good at split testing. We just failed our way forward. My business partner, fortunately, is really good at the systems and processes side of the business. I am the one that just breaks stuff and then he cleans it up.
Andy:You guys make a good team in that sense, then.
Justin:We do good. We’re fortunate we’ve got a lot of good people on the team as well that keep things in line.
Andy:

[00:28:00]

I like how you said, “We go and get it.” That’s literally what outbound does is you’re reaching out to people who weren’t going to find you otherwise. The reason it works isn’t that different than the same principles behind content marketing, influencer marketing, whatever buzzword you want to do to describe it. A lot of what the bigger agencies do is they have these books, and instead of sending them out in this elaborate campaign which some of them do, but a lot of it’s going to be speaking. A lot of it’s going to be just getting their name out there everywhere so even if you’re not looking for it, you’re going to find them. Have you thought about going more that route and trying to broaden the reach? Or you guys like the laser focused one-on-one outreach campaigns or…
Justin:

[00:29:00]

We’re expanding quite a bit. We’re sponsoring more events. I think we’ve already done two this year. We’re going one this week, one next week. Doing one in November, possibly one in December, and then another one in March. I’ve spoken at masterminds, I’ve done … I actually was in Chicago speaking at an executive retreat for a company, and so expanding there. Every trade show we give away a book to get it out there. I think, the last one, we gave over 450 copies away. This one this weekend I think we’ve got 600 there.
Andy:I’m curious, at a trade show like that, if you’re giving away the books, do you ask for anything in return like a way to follow up with them? Or is it just here are the books and you just are not worried about tracking the individual results of that campaign?
Justin:

[00:30:00]

A little bit of both. We definitely try to go for the lead, but that’s our opener. We’re giving away something of value that’s outside of the rest of the swag and the junk you come home with from an event. You don’t need another t-shirt, you don’t need another can koozie you don’t need another pen. We try to position it a little bit different. Here’s something of value, and you’re going to remember us because that’s the company that gave us the book.
Andy:That’s really what a lot of this boils down to is providing the value upfront, being different by making it not about you and making it about them. At a certain point, some people still do love the t-shirt and koozies and all of that, but I don’t know how many of those people are actually going to become clients of someone who gave them the t-shirt or koozie. They might wear it, but that’s about it. With a book, you’re providing value. You’re actually helping them and you’re showing that you’re not like all of the other agencies out there, you’re not like all the other businesses out there just trying to spam their same mass message to everybody.
Justin:You got to be focused a little bit, but you got to be a little bit crazy at the same time.
Andy:

[00:31:00]

Because it seems to me that while your direct outreach method built up your agency to where it is today, it seems like naturally that proportion is going to go down, because as you keep creating great valuable content, as you … You have your book. As you keep doing more speaking, as you do all these things, it’s just naturally going to shift more to generating more inbound. Have you been seeing that? Or am I way off-base?
Justin:Yeah, we’ve seen a little bit of an increase in inbound, but it still, again, isn’t the prime quality people. The companies aren’t quite there yet. It’s creeping up there, but it’s still not anywhere near what the outreach is yet.
Andy:Have you thought about creating info products to serve those less qualified leads?
Justin:They don’t want it.
Andy:Really?
[00:32:00]

Justin:

That’s how we started the whole company was let’s teach people how to do it. Nobody wanted. They’re like, “Just do it for me.”
Andy:A lot of the inbound leads want to do it for you but don’t really have the budgets to make it worth it for you to do for them?
Justin:Or the traffic to be able to make use of an optimization plan. They get 20,000 visitors to their site a month, but it takes forever to split test on that much traffic.
Andy:Because that’s one of the things split testing, with what you guys offer, it’s where the qualifications of a potential client are pretty … There’s not a lot of wiggle room. At a certain point it just doesn’t make sense for them to focus on this. There’s other things they need to do instead.
Justin:We’ve gotten really good about saying no.
Andy:Which is something that, especially in the beginning, a lot of people had a lot of headaches because they can’t say no.
Justin:

[00:33:00]

I’m guilty. I would say yes to anybody and everybody, be like, “We’ll figure it out.” It just ended up being headaches, but we had bills to pay. Just saying no to the wrong opportunities will open the door for the new ones. Just go out there, bang on some doors in whatever way you can to get your foot in the door. You call it your foot in the door offer.
Andy:It’s something that, to me, is why … Whether it’s direct mail, whether it’s just outreach in general, whether it’s even inbound marketing, the value of any of those systems if you can get them to work is that it gives you a predictable pipeline so that you’re able to start saying no to people who aren’t a good fit. You don’t need to be chasing after every checkbook because you know you’ll still be able to make payroll next month because you have his machine running and generating enough lead to keep you going and keep you growing.
[00:34:00]

Justin:

I think it gains you a little bit more respect as well and it puts you in a place of power. I believe as well it gives you leverage because you’re able to say no and your mindset is there, and I think people respect you for that. Instead of they come banging down your door saying, “I need your help, I’ve got this, this, and this,” and then you say, “Here’s the reason why this isn’t going to work for you,” and you’re just brutally honest with them, I think that gains some more respect. We’ve actually gotten referrals from that standpoint.
Andy:That goes hand-in-hand with the credibility is that you can position yourself as an expert who’s getting these great results, who can do all this to change and help improve someone’s business, but if the client sees how desperate you are to close and every deal, it just doesn’t really back up that you actually are this genuine expert. Because any expert needs to actually be qualifying the client. They need to actually be making sure they can help instead of just saying, “We’ll do it.”
[00:35:00]

Justin:

The reason why we get great results is we work with great clients. That’s what it comes down to.
Andy:You’ve said that it’s not an overnight process and guys have made a ton of progress getting to this point where now you really are fully embodying that and you’re able to say no and you’re able to turn down clients and you’re able to pick the good ones. I’m curious, before we transition a little bit, did you have any mentors or any books or anything that helped make this process more approachable to you? I know you have direct response backgrounds, so I’m wondering if that led you to [inaudible 00:35:37] or what it was that made it this big of a success. I know you say you have to fail for, you have to test, you have to do this and this, but people could still have a lot of bad tests and not really get there. I’m curious. Other than that testing, what do you think allowed you to get to this point?
[00:36:00]

Justin:

Not being afraid to ask for help. We’ve hired a couple different consultants, we’ve hired … We’re working with one right now, in fact. We’ve hired other experts for just can I just buy an hour of your time type thing to have a look at this and just destroy it, have him pick it apart. [Meneesh 00:36:18] and I, my business partner, are avid readers. I think last year alone I read 50-something books. We look for anything and everything we can possibly get to test. We take inspiration from other things. For instance, I use a solution … Was that how we got connected was Interview Connections?
Andy:Yes. I saw Jason Swenk. He was on this podcast. I saw you were on his, and so that was what led me to reach out to you.
Justin:

[00:37:00]

I use a solution that gets [crosstalk 00:36:55] podcasts as well, but I got a thank you note from her the other day, just a handwritten note. She actually included a book on how to get customers to stay. Coincidentally, it was her dad’s book. It’s just different things like that. I’m going to dive into that book, I got it yesterday, on just unique, different ways. I got some inspiration from that. It’s like, “What can we do to even further our outreach and to just taking massive action on it?”
[00:38:00]I read a lot of books. I think one was How to Get a Meeting with Anyone. I read a lot of sales books, a lot of persuasion books just to hone the craft. A lot of business growth books. One of my favorite ones of the last year was Playing to Win by AG Lafley who was the former chairman for Proctor and Gamble. Just anything that I can do to … Encompassing our whole entire philosophy at your company is the philosophy of Kaizen, and that’s the heart of continuous improvement. We just look for ways to be better than we were yesterday. How did that work? What didn’t work? How can we make it better? Even if it’s just a slight improvement them it compounds over time.
Andy:There’s two sides to it is that it’s … The hard part for me at least and … I know a lot of other people are like me in that it’s getting over the fear of acting. It’s being afraid to fail, it’s being afraid to be an amateur, it’s being afraid to ask for help. Any of those things. The other side too is you need to get the knowledge to at least know what direction you should be acting, what types of changes … You don’t want to fail on purpose, so you want to at least have the best guess of how you could succeed. Then it’s just actually the, I don’t want to call it courage, that’s too strong of a word, but it’s having the tenacity to actually go through with it.
[00:39:00]

Justin:

That’s what it is. We were scared to death to mail that $100 campaign. We didn’t have an extra $1,000 bucks at the time. It doesn’t get any easier shelling out $15,000 to sponsor an event. It never does, but you got to try it if you can swing it. We started out sponsoring a $6,000 event. Just something that we can get the ball rolling and testing it out, and we ended up getting a bunch of leads from it.
Andy:

[00:40:00]

When the project is worth that much, a lead is worth a ton. It lets you get more creative with that, but, at the same time, you don’t just start out in the major leagues. You don’t just start out with this huge, expensive test. You find something that works for your budget that lets you dip your toe in the water. Like you’ve said is that you guys failed on your first test, but you saw some promise. You went with that and you took that and ran with it and just kept continuously improvement.
Justin:We see failure with every single one of our campaigns at some level. Whether it be the 10th email in the sequence gets a 0% opened rate, or response rate or something. There’s areas that you can improve every little thing in that process, but we often make … Now we’re in the position where we make some big swings, so we’re swinging for the fence a little bit more. It’s either going to pay off big or we’re going to fail, but we didn’t get there overnight. We’ve just had to move up the ranks and try little things, tweak it, stop it, and go from there.
Andy:

[00:41:00]

I don’t want to belabor the point too much, but you just summed it up perfectly is that you’re able to swing for the fences now, you’re able to really take the big bets. Some of those are going to pay off tremendously, but they’re not all going to. You got there by picking up a few singles, by getting a few smaller hits, working your way up, learning, improving, and so on. That’s just what I could recommend to any agency. Just start small, like you said, and work your way up. I’m curious, with that said, what does the future look like for Conversion Fanatics? Where do you see things going on the business front going forward?
Justin:We’re ramping up, actually, our outbound efforts right now. Like I said, we’re doing a lot more events. We’re actually testing different types of events. We’ve been to two completely different styles of events already this year, both yielded pretty good results. Now we’re going to test different types of audiences to see what that yields. We’re just growing. It’s crazy. We’re hiring like crazy. We’ve got a couple…
Andy:How many employees do you have right now?
Justin:16, I think.
[00:42:00]

Andy:

In the next year, where would you like to see your headcount at and all of that?
Justin:Within the next 12 calendar months, this time next year, I would say we’re probably going to be about 25 employees.
Andy:

[00:43:00]

I like hearing the details of how you got there and how you got here because … The cold outreach method appeals to me because it’s repeatable, you’re the one in control, whereas with inbound, with a lot of content marketing, you can increase your chance at success, but it’s not fully in your control. You’re hoping that this article gets read, that all these other things happen. Whereas with this you can literally put the package in someone’s mailbox, you can put it on their desk, wherever, and, slowly, it works. It’s just a much more repeatable process. Not to say it’s an easy one at all, because it’s not. I like hearing the insights into that, so I really appreciate you coming on to share that with us.
Justin:I’m not counting out content or anything. We published 110 blog posts last year. We still do four to six probably a month right now. I’m not counting that out, but I can’t control it, like you said, and I like to have some level of control. That way, I can know just how bad it fails because I get a little more instant gratification and where the chain is broken. I only worry about what I can control.
Andy:

[00:44:00]

With content, obviously, you can always improve. You can put up better content, you can promote it better, you can do all that. I know exactly what you mean is, with the control, you roughly know if you send out this many pieces, if you have this touches you’ll get this out at that end. That’s pretty appealing to me. As a math guy, you like having those numbers work out reasonably well and being able to tweak this and that. Before we wrap up, I’m curious. Where can listeners go to hear more from you, to hear more about Conversion Fanatics and everything that you guys are up?
Justin:You can go to conversionfanatics.com. That’s our main site. There’s link over to the book on Amazon, all that fun stuff. You can ctually connect with me personally by going to clyxo.com/justinchristanson, all one word. That’ll get me direct access to all my social.
Andy:I’ll make sure I get all of that linked up in the show notes. I just want to say, Justin, thanks a lot for coming on the show today.
Justin:Thanks, Andy, for having me. I appreciate it.

Want to learn more?

To follow what Justin and his team are up to, check out his agency’s website, ConversionFanatics.com. If you want to get in touch with Justin, you can find all of his contact information on Clyxo

Resources mentioned:

How to Get a Meeting With Anyone by Stu Heinecke
Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley
Kaizen Philosophy
Sales Loft